We’ve heard it all before; walking is good for you. And it is. However, what few people know is just how many benefits there are to including a 30-minute walk into your daily routine. Good walking habits can have a profound effect on your physical, mental, and emotional health. The human body is designed for walking. Unfortunately, most people do too little of it. The sedentary lifestyles we lead keep us sitting far too much and walking far too little. There’s no need to give up, though. Taking the time to walk for 30 minutes each day can reverse the adverse effects of spending too much time sitting.
The best part about walking as part of an exercise routine is that it’s free. You don’t need to join a fancy gym. Getting outdoors is one of the best parts of walking for exercise. Another great thing is that you can go walking with family, friends, or as part of a ‘club’ of walkers. There’s more time to talk and catch up with people which is something we do too little of these days. If you think walking is a waste of time, think again. Here are 30 benefits walking has for your body:
1. Walking is essential for the health of your heart
A brisk walk is an excellent way to give your heart muscles a workout. As walking is a form of cardio exercise, it raises your heart rate. This is the number of times your heart is beating per minute. Your resting heart rate and exercising heart rate will differ. A raised heart rate makes the heart pump faster. The muscles of the heart are like any other muscles in the body. They need exercise.
The best way to give your heart some exercise is to do activities that make your heart rate rise. Regular cardio exercise strengthens the heart muscles. This allows you to take on more intense cardio activities such as jogging or running. The stronger your heart, the more capable it is of dealing with situations that require it to work harder to supply your body with blood and oxygen.
2. Walking can help to improve your joint mobility
Stiff joints can cause a lot of discomforts. They eventually lead to immobility. Having stiff joints does not preclude you from walking every day. Initially, it may be a struggle as the joints are unable to flex. Walking may be a bit painful too. However, you should persevere knowing that in the long-term walking will provide you with much-needed relief.
If you have a condition that weakens your joints or makes them stiff, you should consult your doctor before starting to walk for daily exercise. In most cases, doctors will recommend walking, but caution patients not to overdo it. After a while, you’ll notice that your joints start to ache less and become more flexible. Regular exercise like walking eases joint stiffness. What makes walking perfect is that it is a low-impact form of exercise which makes it less harmful to the joints than running.
3. Walking is important for keeping your bones strong
As we age, our bones might begin to lose their density. Bone density is the amount of bone mineral present in the bones. A depletion of bone density leads to conditions such as osteoporosis. Exercise helps to retain bone mass. For those who haven’t been exercising at all, the best way to start is by walking.
Walking is a great way to build up the bones and retain the bone mineral needed for healthy bones. The stronger your bones are, the less likely they are to break. People with low bone density are more prone to fractures and breaks. As exercise can help to stabilize or improve bone density, a person who exercises regularly is less likely to sustain an injury. Walking improves your overall fitness and flexibility which can help to prevent you from falling which could lead to a break or fracture.
4. Walking can help to eliminate a backache
A lot of backaches are the result of poor posture and prolonged strain. Spending a lot of time sitting places a strain on your back muscles, especially if you’re not sitting on a chair that offers back support. The strain of keeping the back upright in a seated position for long periods can leave the muscles tired and aching.
One of the best ways to relieve a backache is to get out of your chair and stand up. When you’re working at your desk for hours on end, you’re advised to take a break, stand up, and take a quick walk around the office to get your back feeling more relaxed and less tense. So, imagine how a much a 30-minute walk can do to alleviate a backache. Regular exercise strengthens the core back muscles which reduces the frequency of backaches.
5. Walking can help to relieve high blood pressure
High blood pressure is the result of the strain placed on the body’s arteries and veins as the heart pumps blood through them. If the pressure on the veins and arteries is too great, the walls of these blood vessels might be weakened. Weakened blood vessels can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
A stronger heart can pump the blood needed through the body with less effort. This means that the pressure on the arteries and veins gets reduced. As little as 10 minutes of walking a day can make a significant change to your blood pressure. The recommended 30 minutes can make the impact more meaningful. A person taking blood pressure medication might find themselves needing less or no medication if they make a habit of walking. No changes to medication should be contemplated without consulting your doctor.
6. Walking can help you manage your blood sugar
High blood sugar is the result of having high levels of unused glucose stored in the blood. This poses a potential threat to the body. The insulin from the pancreas helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Sometimes, the insulin can’t manage on its own. When the body cannot process glucose and maintain healthy blood sugar levels, there is a risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes requires treatment with insulin.
Exercise can be the key to maintaining more healthy blood sugar levels. As the heart rate rises, the body starts to use more of the glucose in the blood. The glucose feeds the muscles which allow them to keep working. If you’re being treated for high blood sugar or diabetes, your doctor should be informed of your exercise plans. Regular testing of your blood sugar before and after exercise will give you an indication of its effectiveness.
7. Walking can speed up your metabolism
Our bodies as fuel use the food we eat. When you fill up the tank but don’t go anywhere, the fuel remains unused. In the body, unused fats and sugars are stored for future use. If they are never used, they can lead to a rise in blood sugar levels and an increase in weight. That’s why it’s important to put the food you put into your body to work for you.
Metabolism is the rate at which your body converts food into energy. A sluggish metabolic rate means that you’re likely to gain weight. You can speed up your metabolism with regular exercise such as walking. The minute you start walking, your muscles start working and demand fuel which the body metabolizes. This will minimize how many unconverted fats and sugars are retained in the body and help you to lose weight.
8. Walking can improve your lung function and health
Your lungs supply your body with life-giving oxygen. Without healthy lungs, insufficient oxygen is transported around the body which can affect your well-being. Walking gives your lungs a workout together with the rest of the body. Using exercise to strengthen your lungs is a good idea for your long-term health. The action of walking requires the lungs to supply more oxygen to the body than they do when you’re at rest.
This increased activity makes the lungs work at their full capacity. A regular workout is as good for your lungs as it is for the rest of your body. The lungs are strengthened and less susceptible to lung disease. A lot of asthma patients benefit from exercise such as regular walking and how it strengthens the lungs. If you have a lung condition, always consult your doctor before you start an exercise program.
9. Walking can help to reduce stress levels
Stress is ubiquitous in the fast-paced lives we lead today. People get exposed to internal and external stress. Not staying on top of your stress levels can have very adverse effects on your physical health. Stress causes elevated blood pressure, sleep problems, and can have an impact on your weight.
One of the first things you should do when you’re feeling stressed is exercise. A 30-minute walk can help you manage your stress. Some people find that walking clears their heads and takes them away from their stress for a while. Others find that thinking about what’s going on while they’re walking helps them to sort their problems out and figure out what to do next. Exercise releases endorphins and hormones that make you feel positive and energized. Feeling this way helps you to deal with all the things that are stressing you out.
10. Walking can improve your balance and coordination
If you watch a baby learning to walk, you’ll see the intense concentration on their faces. Their full focus is on balancing on their feet and being able to put one foot in front of the other. Walking requires a combination of balance and coordination. As time passes, walking becomes second nature and not something you have to concentrate on.
However, as with most things, practice makes perfect. The more often you do something, the more proficient you are at it. You may have mastered the art of walking a long time ago. However, if you don’t do it frequently, you can start to experience reduced balance and coordination. Losing your sense of balance and coordination makes you clumsy and prone to falling. People who take up walking must put their balance and coordination skills to the test which keeps them sharp.
11. Walking can help if you’re feeling down or depressed
Depression can leave you feeling lethargic and overwhelmed by feelings of sadness. A depressed person will struggle to start with an exercise program because it’s a challenge to get up and get going. However, as hard as it may be, walking can be one of the best things a depressed person can do.
Exercise like walking releases chemicals like serotonin and dopamine which are feel-good chemicals. They induce a feeling of well-being. Often, depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Serotonin levels can bring on a bout of depression. Stimulating the brain to release these chemicals through an exercise like walking can help a depressed person get a handle on how they’re feeling. Using walking as a way of dealing with a bout of depression doesn’t mean you don’t need medication. However, it can help make your treatment regimen more effective.
12. Walking may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are still the subject of research. More studies into what causes these conditions are very much needed. Treatment is also the subject of research. There is no cure for either condition. Doctors and researchers believe that there is a link between diet and exercise and the onset of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. The reason that exercise such as walking may be beneficial is that it increases the flow of oxygen to the brain.
Doing exercise and increasing the flow of oxygen around the body and to the brain has many benefits. The additional oxygen supplied to the brain during exercise can stimulate your memory and make it easier to recall facts. Walking is a great way to clear your mind of all the distractions around you, allowing you to be more focused and able to concentrate.
13. Walking can stimulate your brain and make you more creative
A lot of situations in life require you to come up with creative solutions. Stimulating your creativity does not come easily to everyone. However, if you need to get your creative juices flowing, consider going for a walk. While walking, you can clear your mind of all the cobwebs and let your creative streak come to the fore.
Doing something physical can take your mind off the issue at hand. This is the exact moment that the penny will drop and the solution you need will come to mind. Getting outdoors and communing with nature while taking a walk can give you many creative ideas. A lot of authors swear by walking as a way to get creative inspiration for their novels. On a physical level, walking probably stimulates your creativity because it allows for an increased flow of oxygen to the brain.
14. Walking can boost your immune system’s ability to fight off infection
A person who makes a habit of walking is less likely to catch a cold than someone who doesn’t. The physical activity may flush bacteria out of the airways before they can take hold. Exercise can cause differences in antibodies and white blood cells. When antibodies and white blood cells detect a threat, they take action to fight it off. During a walk, the blood flow becomes more rapid. The antibodies and white blood cells are traveling around the body more quickly.
This increases their chances of detecting a threat earlier on. Early intervention by the immune system prevents infection from taking hold. The elevated body temperature a walk causes may also prevent the growth and spreading of bacteria which only thrive at a certain temperature. Walking also reduces the release of stress hormones which may make the body susceptible to illness.
15. Walking can help to reduce allergies and their effects
Regular walking can decrease allergy symptoms. The improved blood flow around the body may help to remove allergens, especially those in the air around you. Environmental allergens such as pollen, grass, seeds, and smoke can be eliminated from the system by increased blood flow. Environmental allergens cause itchy eyes, a sore throat, pressure on the sinuses, and a runny nose. Allergens can also produce asthma attacks.
Take the allergic reaction of the sufferer into consideration. Walking cannot take the place of prescribed medications. Allergy sufferers should carry their medication with them when they go walking. This is important for acute allergy sufferers who need to use an Epipen or asthma pump. It’s unlikely that walking will eliminate an allergy. However, it can improve the body’s ability to respond to exposure to an allergen. Consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program.
16. Walking is an excellent way to improve your digestion
The body’s digestive system is essential for eliminating waste from the body. As soon as you eat something, it enters your digestive system. The digestive system’s job is to break what you have eaten down. The nutrients from the food are provided to the body for energy. However, not all the food is used. Some of it needs to expel from the body. Eating enough fiber is essential for a functional digestive system.
Fiber is an integral part of the digestive process. It helps to form the stool and moves the stool through the intestine so that it can be expelled. Another essential way to keep the digestive system working is exercise like walking. A brisk walk will keep your digestive system working. Walking may speed up the digestive process. The increase of blood flow as a result of walking stimulates the digestive system to work faster.
17. Walking can help you trim down and show off your best assets
As the muscles in the body get stimulated by walking, they start to firm up. Firmer muscles have better definition and are toned. Within a few months of walking, you’ll start to notice certain groups of muscles are firming up. Most noticeable are the leg and buttock muscles. They become leaner and shapelier than they were before.
You might find yourself wanting to show off a bit of leg once your calves and thighs become more toned from walking. Tighter clothes may also be appealing where once you would have done just about anything to prevent people from seeing your butt. Enjoy the fruits of your labor by changing your look with some new clothes that accentuate your newly-toned muscles. Continue walking to get them even more toned and trim. Embrace the changes to your body and let them motivate you.
18. Walking can help to improve your sleeping patterns
A lot of people go through periods where they struggle to sleep. However, if the problem persists, you may have insomnia. A lot of people think the only treatment you can get for insomnia is sleeping medication. This is not necessarily true. One of the first things your doctor will ask if you complain about insomnia is how much you exercise.
That’s because an exercise program is closely related to good sleep patterns. An ideal way to get your sleep patterns under control is to start walking. A study conducted among people who have chronic insomnia found that walking reduced the time it took them to fall asleep. It also lengthened the time they spent sleeping. Walking decreases anxiety which is often a factor in insomnia. The increase in body temperature and the cooling afterward can also promote sleep.
19. Walking can keep you looking young
A lot of people who take up walking say that they feel younger. This is attributed to the exercise program they’ve taken up. However, exercise won’t just leave you feeling more youthful. It can make you look younger as well. The increased blood flow throughout the body that walking triggers make no exception when it comes to the skin. Blood flow to the skin heals sores and helps to keep the skin moist. Well-hydrated skin is less likely to wrinkle.
Another effect that regular exercise has on the skin has to do with the chromosomes. Chromosomes age with the body. One of the things that happen to them is the shortening of the telomeres. The telomeres are at the end of each chromosome and influence the aging process. Longer telomeres get associated with being more youthful looking. Exercise may slow down the shortening of your telomeres.
20. Walking is low-impact and therefore less likely to result in injuries
Getting moving can pose its risks. The impact of exercise on the hip, knee, and ankle joints can cause injuries. For those prone to such injuries, the idea of taking up walking may be off-putting. The risk of getting a joint injury is quite low. In comparison with high-impact activities like running and playing other sports, the risk is minimal.
Walking is regarded as a low-impact activity. This means that it doesn’t cause the jarring pressure on the joints that high-impact activity does. Like any other exercise, there are precautions you should take before walking. Warm up activities like stretching reduce the risk of injury. Cooldown activities after the fact are equally important. Anyone with a history of joint injuries or conditions that make them prone to joint problems should consult their doctor before starting a walking program.
21. Walking can improve your physical endurance
Are you tired of being the colleague that’s out of breath after climbing the stairs? Perhaps you’re sick of being a sweaty mess when trying to keep up with your friends as they walk outside to enjoy their lunch break. Being out of breath and perspiring at the littlest effort is a sign that you’re unfit. Precisely, you lack endurance. Endurance is the ability to carry on with a physical challenge for a more extended period.
Walking is the perfect way to build up endurance. You can start slowly and see how many miles you cover in your first walk. The more you walk, the further you’ll be able to go within the same 30-minute period. You’ll find yourself being able to up the pace at which you walk and keep going for longer. These are all signs that you’re building up physical endurance.
22. Walking can help you to alleviate restless leg syndrome
Restless leg syndrome can be challenging to live with. It causes sensations in the legs that the body reacts to by twitching or sudden movements to alleviate those feelings. A lot of people complain that their restless leg syndrome keeps them awake at night. The condition affects the quality of their sleep which, in turn, affects their quality of life. The causes of the disease are not yet fully understood. The treatments available address the symptoms but not the purpose.
Mild to moderate exercise is recommended for restless leg sufferers. Anything too strenuous may make the problem worse. No exercise at all will have the same effect. This is what makes walking the ideal solution. Walking offers the perfect combination of exercise without too much exertion. You can walk at your own pace for as long as possible to alleviate the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
23. Walking is good for exercising your foot muscles
The feet take a lot of strain. When you stand up and walk, your feet carry your full weight. To manage this, the foot muscles need to be strong. A sedentary lifestyle will cause the weakening of the foot muscles. As soon as you spend a lot of time on your feet, they’ll start to feel sore. This is your feet’s way of telling you that the foot muscles are tired.
Like any other muscles, the way to strengthen your foot muscles is to exercise them. This means getting on your feet and moving around more often. Walking gives your feet a good workout and allows the muscles to strengthen. With stronger foot muscles, you’ll be able to spend more time on your feet without limping around afterward. Make sure you wear appropriate shoes when walking. They support the foot muscles and allow them to strengthen.
24. Walking is good for boosting your Vitamin D intake
Vitamin D is vital for the absorption of calcium in the body. Calcium is essential for maintaining healthy bones that do not lose their density. Taking calcium supplements or eating foods rich in calcium is fruitless if not accompanied by the intake of Vitamin D.
You can get Vitamin D by eating liver and fatty fish. Your body does not produce its own Vitamin D, so your diet needs to include it. However, food is not the only way to get your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D. Sun exposure also provides the body with Vitamin D. That doesn’t mean you need to lie in the hot sun and bake yourself to a crisp. All it takes is getting outside into the sunshine for a short period. Why not combine your need for the ‘sunshine vitamin’ with taking regular walks?
25. Walking should increase your energy levels
Getting your heart rate up and speeding up the circulation of blood through your body is going to affect your energy levels. A common misconception about any exercise is that it saps the energy out of you due to the physical activity. People believe that exercise will leave them feeling exhausted and unable to do anything else. This isn’t true at all. While you might feel a bit tired after your walk, the physical exertion is going to create more energy in your body.
The increased blood flow strengthens the heart which also boosts your energy levels. The improvement in your mood will give you more energy to tackle tasks with renewed vigor. The fact that walking promotes better sleep quality means that your energy levels will rise. The mental focus and creativity walking facilitate also boosts energy levels. Recharge your battery for greater energy by taking up walking.
26. Walking can improve your love life
One of the ways you can channel your new-found energy is putting it to work in the bedroom by engaging in more intimacy with your partner. Increased energy levels may get you in the mood far more often than you were before. Another way that walking can improve your love life is the fact that it releases endorphins into the bloodstream. This leads to a sense of heightened satisfaction and a euphoric feeling.
The endorphins are called feel-good hormones. Let’s face it, when you’re feeling good about yourself, you’re far more likely to want to make love. Why not take up walking with your partner. Then both of you will feel that high at the same time, and both feel in the mood to hop into bed. The act itself is another workout altogether which leads to a further release of endorphins which will leave you wanting more!
27. Walking can make you live longer
A lack of physical activity can lead to an early death. Not exercising reduces your expected lifespan. Walking reduces your risk of many diseases that may shorten your life. These include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, pulmonary diseases, digestive disorders, memory loss, and hormone imbalances. Obesity can bring on the onset of such conditions. Walking can help an obese person lose weight and protect themselves from developing these life-threatening medical conditions. Walkers lose weight by partaking in this pleasurable exercise.
Several studies have been conducted that show a causal link between regular exercise and longer life. Exercise such as walking can prevent strokes and heart attacks which are among the leading causes of premature death. Even people who smoke can benefit from regular walking or some other exercise. However, their chances of prolonging their lives will improve even more if they stop smoking altogether.
28. Walking can raise your levels of good cholesterol
When people hear the word cholesterol, they immediately think of heart attacks and strokes. Cholesterol can contribute to such potentially fatal events. However, there are two types of cholesterol. Commonly known as good and bad cholesterol, it is the presence of bad cholesterol that can cause heart attacks and strokes. The medical term for bad cholesterol is LDL (low-density lipoprotein).
It accumulates as fatty deposits in the veins and arteries and restricts or blocks the flow of blood to and from the heart. The correct term for good cholesterol is HDL (high-density lipoprotein). HDL travels through the body removing LDL from the bloodstream. The HDL absorbs the LDL and takes it to the liver where it gets destroyed. Physical activity such as walking increases the flow of HDL around the body. The HDL is better able to find and absorb the LDL and get it to the liver.
29. Walking can reduce incidences of acid reflux
Acid reflux is very painful. The condition occurs when acid from the stomach travels up into the esophagus. The esophagus is not lined like the stomach to make it tolerant of the acid. Consequently, the acid burns the esophagus which is extremely uncomfortable. It’s normal to experience the odd instance of acid reflux, especially after you’ve overindulged at the dinner table. Taking a walk after overeating may settle the stomach and avoid the reflux episode.
Persistent acid reflux could be due to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder or GERD. One of the major causes of GERD is excess body weight. There is pressure on the stomach caused by being overweight. This forces the stomach acid up and into the esophagus. Losing that excess body weight alleviates the stress on the stomach and stops forcing the stomach acid upward. Walking is proven to result in weight loss.
30. Walking may help to reduce the symptoms of PMS and menopause
PMS is a pre-menstrual syndrome. Menopause occurs when a woman reaches the end of her fertility cycle, and her reproductive system begins to shut down. Fluctuating hormone levels characterize both these conditions. The primary hormone that may be elevated or reduced is estrogen. Estrogen is the female hormone needed to keep the reproductive system stable. A fluctuation in estrogen before menstruation may lead to back pain, irritability, and headaches. For women experiencing menopause, hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness may occur.
For both conditions, low-impact mild to moderate activity is advocated to relieve some of the symptoms. Improved circulation can help to reduce pain associated with cramping. The mental benefits of walking may help with the emotional rollercoaster that accompanies PMS and menopause. Keeping your weight down can also reduce the severity of symptoms.